The new coronavirus COVID-19 has brought much of the world to standstill, as entire populations of people are being quarantined or self-isolating in order to help stop the spread of the virus. With everyone staying home in mass numbers, the movie theater industry has been one of many entertainment/leisure business economically impacted by the pandemic, with US chains like AMC and Regal shutting down theater locations for the foreseeable future. However, as the US and Europe are now in the thick of the pandemic, China (where the outbreak began) is showing first hints of cinemas soon re-opening to the public.
As Deadline reports, U.S. entertainment industry sources are now reporting that China FIlm Group in Shinghai and other branches of the China Film Bureau are currently re-opening for business. Chinese theaters have been shutdown since Lunar New Year in January, as the country was going through its most dire bout with COVID-19. At the time of writing this, the amount of daily COVID-19 diagnoses has dropped dramatically - a sign that the virus is on its way out of the population. Given the crippling economic effects of the Pandemic, it's no surprise Chinese industry leaders and government officials would want to get the lucrative (and socially influential) entertainment industry back up an running, after suffering an estimated $2 Billion in losses.
As IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond told Deadline: "They're starting to lay out a plan for the re-opening of cinema in China. They're starting to assess what movies are available, in what time periods and how they want to manage the re-opening."
Variety has more detail about just how China plans to rollout its theater re-openings. According to the trade, "China's main state-owned distributor plans to issue a batch of half a dozen films, from which cinemas will keep all income, in order to get the country's exhibition sector back on its feet after long closures due to coronavirus, it has said."
The first slate of re-releases will include four big Chinese blockbusters: American Dreams in China (2013); Wolf Totem (2015); and of the top-grossing Chinese films of all time, Wolf Warrior 2 and The Wandering Earth. Chinese theaters will also re-open with two Hollywood films on the docket, Oscar-nominee Green Book, and the 2017 family-friendly film, A Dog's Purpose. There will be one foreign film included, Capernaum, from Lebanese director Nadine Labaki.
The big thing here is that these re-lease aren't just being done re-generate interest in Chinese citizens going to the theater; they're also already-proven box office draws. It's been stated by both the Deadline and Variety reports that 100% of the profits from these Chinese re-releases will be going to the theaters themselves, to buffer against the significant losses.
This turnaround point may still be several months away for the US, but it is nonetheless a light signaling that this tunnel can (and will) end.